Never before have I needed to so purposely anchor myself to the truth and my hope in Jesus Christ. My concerns for my country and the future have been at the forefront, this week. It is likely that this country has not been so divided since the Civil War. Yet, one party has taken control; disdain for my faith and values emanates from them. Praise God, I have a greater hope, and it is “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.” I am a vessel prone to drifting. I remember from my time in the Coast Guard, that when you drop anchor, you set an anchor watch. The whole crew cannot sit at ease. Someone must watch to be sure that the anchor is holding and that the ship is not drifting and dragging the anchor. In the same way, I know I must be watchful, lest I allow myself to be tossed by storms and carried up and down on the tides of the times.
But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.Hebrews 10:32-36
This week, I set the anchor watch in my life. I need to keep myself secured to my faith and hope, so that the worries of the times don’t overwhelm me. The arrows of fear and anxiety are flying all around. I have to spend time in the Word daily, to stay connected to the truth that keeps me grounded. On Wednesday, I spent time in the book of Hebrews, reminding myself that this world is not my home. When we “desire a better country. . .God is not ashamed to be called [our] God.” (Hebrews 11:16) He is glorified when we endure and live as “strangers and exiles on the earth.” (Hebrews 11:13) If we consider the United States of America (or any other nation founded by men) as our true homeland, we become like Lot’s wife. She was too attached to her life in Sodom, and she couldn’t keep herself from looking back at the earthly home and the destruction she was being rescued from.
Good music is my favorite way to keep my mind focused on the truth. This week, Matt Redman’s album Unbroken Praise was my weapon of choice against anxiety. I would start to feel anxious, so I would start singing, “The greater the storm / The louder our song,” or “I will sing songs in the night / Praise in the storm / You’re God in it all.” I listened to these songs on my drive to work, to keep my thoughts on my hope. If twenty years of struggling with clinical depression has taught me anything, it is that I have to starve the part of my mind that wants to focus on the worst-case-scenario and dive into a downward spiral of worry. Keeping a God-centered, eternal perspective is essential to restraining the negative voices in my head. It is a fight I consciously engage in, always clinging tightly to the promises of my Faithful God. God’s Word makes it clear that troubles, afflictions, persecution, and trials will come; I am not ignorant of that. But we are also told, “Take heart,” “Do not fear,” and “Count it joy.” Somehow this doesn’t seem to include time spent imagining what horrible things the future may hold.
Commit your way to the LORD;Psalms 37:5-7
trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!
As I thought on this, I remembered a chapter of C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. In his correspondence, the devil Screwtape writes that it is desirable to keep humans caught up in the future, so that they are not living as they ought to in the present. Screwtape notes that God “wants men to think of the Future too – just so much as is necessary for now planning the acts of justice or charity which will probably be their duty tomorrow.” Our devil further contrasts that “[God] does not want men to give the Future their hearts, to place their treasure in it. We do. . .we want a man hagridden by the Future – haunted by visions of an imminent heaven or hell upon earth. . .” I think it interesting that from the perspective of C.S. Lewis’ devil, it doesn’t actually matter whether the human is optimistic or pessimistic about the future because either way the person is living in unreality, as the future is unknown to him. If we want our anchors to hold, we have to keep ourselves planted in the present, being watchful not worried. “Tomorrow will be anxious for itself,” our Savior told us.
We shouldn’t be blind to the realities around us, but neither should we wring our hands. Scripture makes clear that we can have hope and joy, even in the midst of affliction. How much more should we be joyful when we are not feeling afflicted? We see affliction coming, of course; it is promised it will occur. But images of the future shouldn’t steel the joy and peace that God gives for the present. I want to take Paul’s admonishment from Colossians 4:2, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” When thanksgiving abounds, the afflictions seem less.